There were tears, hugs, anger and some smiles at a park in Colorado Springs on Monday, when hundreds gathered to pay tribute to the victims of a murderous gunman who stormed an LGBTQ club.
Colorado Springs (AFP): There were tears, hugs, anger and some smiles at a park in Colorado Springs on Monday, when hundreds gathered to pay tribute to the victims of a murderous gunman who stormed an LGBTQ club.
Groups huddled clutching candles, sharing memories of the five people whose lives were ended in the horrific violence of Saturday night, the latest example of a deadly mass shooting in America.
Other sobbed as speakers deplored the killing that they blamed on baseless hatred of people slain simply for who they loved.
"We shouldn't have to be here tonight," Allie Porter told the crowd.
"This isn't fair to them or any single one of you. We shouldn't have to be here. This shouldn't have had to happen."
At the foot of a crumbling bandstand stood pictures of five people whose lives were cut short when bullets ripped through Club Q on Saturday just before midnight, shattering a safe haven for this Rocky Mountain city's gay community.
Some on the stage shared memories of the victims, evoking smiles that turned into choked sobs, as the realisation of loss hit anew.
There were signs with messages like "Hate has no home here" and some speakers lashed out at what they said was the hateful rhetoric of right-wing politicians, which was amped up in the weeks before the midterm elections.
"We need to stop the political agenda against the LGBTQ community," burlesque performer Bunny Bee told the crowd.
"Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people in America continue to face discrimination in their daily lives because of anti-gay, anti-LGBTQ political agendas," Bee said.
"We need to continue to fight the hate, the politicians endangering the lives of this community."
Fellow performer Jimmy Gomez-Beisch said the intolerance had to end.
"Stop killing us. The violence just needs to stop. The hate needs to stop. We need to come together as a human race."
Many gave testimony about how they had found the loving support they needed to become comfortable with their identity through the tight-knit LGBTQ community in Colorado Springs, and particularly at Club Q.
And it was that loving support that several speakers said they wanted to channel in the wake of the tragedy.
"I want everyone here to remember that you are loved," one speaker named Cole said.
"You are wanted, you are not a waste of space. We belong here. We have every right to exist."
Bunnie Phantom, a 25-year-old body piercer, told AFP that the community was strong enough to overcome the awfulness of mass murder.
"I'm so glad that everybody was able to come together," she said.
"To see everybody here, to have the support and representation in the community... literally means the world to me."
When it reopens, Phantom said, she will be back at Club Q.
"Absolutely, just for the support and just because it's still my safe space," she said.
"I'm not gonna hide because of this."